I have been enjoying the beautiful photographs posted on Instagram during the Show Your Love Contest. (details at http://www.clevelandmetroparks.com/Main/MyCLEMetroparks-Instagram-Contest.aspx) So I thought this was the perfect time to share the story of our first photo contest, held back in 1918.
In July of that year an article in the Plain Dealer sported the following headlines . . . “Camera fiends should file this data,” The article provided rules and tips for a photo contest sponsored by the Plain Dealer and the newly formed Cleveland Metropolitan Park Board. This early example of crowd sourcing offered amateur and professional photographers the chance to explore the proposed park lands and capture their beauty on film. Keep in mind that paved roads and official trails were far in the future so these intrepid photographers did some major hiking to access these scenic spots!
A slew of entries were used as part of a stereo-optic slide presentation (think PowerPoint) to promote the park scheme to community organizations. It is also possible that amongst the photos found in the first two annual reports in 1918 and 1919 were some of the contest photos, although I can’t confirm that for sure. These photos joined those taken by William Stinchcomb, who was an early “camera fiend” himself. In a 1934 letter to Kodak he claimed that his “early rambles” with his camera, while seeking out the most “picturesque spots in Cuyahoga County” helped to influence the shape of the Cleveland Metropolitan Park System.
I must admit, as much as I love old photos, the lack of color in these particular photos is frustrating. Black and white and sepia shots of people have a certain artistic appeal that seems glamorous, or at least nostalgic. Scenic photos, however, are somewhat lacking without the lush greens and vivid autumn hues that make our reservations so beautiful. But, even without color, it is fun to gaze at these early photos of our great park system in its infancy. Enjoy!!